History is complicated. The history of Florida even more so. On this day in 1822, it took the first step to statehood by becoming a territory of the United States.
But the history of Florida’s long march to statehood is one of the bloodiest in this country.
Originally discovered by Spaniard Juan Ponce de León — explorer, conquistador, and former-Governor of Puerto Rico — in 1513, a century before the British established its colonies much farther north. He had been looking for the mythical Fountain of Youth, unless that story is a myth as well.No matter. Ponce de León discovered La Florida, despite its robust native population; claimed it for Spain, despite its robust native population; and then left, leaving it to its robust native population.
He returned to southwest La Florida in 1521 to establish a Spanish colony, but that didn’t go as planned. The native Calusa people fought the Spanish and, in the process, de León was injured. He returned to Cuba to lick his wounds, but eventually died. He was later interred in the Cathedral of San Juan Batista in Puerto Rico.
According to the WikiWackyWoo:
Florida continued to remain a Spanish possession until the end of the Seven Years’ War when Spain ceded it to the Kingdom of Great Britain in exchange for the release of Havana. In 1783, after the American Revolution, Great Britain ceded Florida back to Spain.:xvii
The second term of Spanish rule was influenced by the nearby United States. There were border disputes along the boundary with the state of Georgia and issues of American use of the Mississippi. These disputes were supposedly solved in 1795 by the Treaty of San Lorenzo which, among other things, solidified the boundary of Florida and Georgia along the 31st parallel. However, as Thomas Jefferson had once predicted, the U.S. could not keep its hands off Florida.:xviii–xix
The United States continued to meddle and sent troops into Florida, mostly as an excuse to chase runaway slaves. These so-called Black Seminoles lived alongside the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes, who had earlier fled oppression and genocide in the north and were already adapted to hiding and making a living in the Florida swamps.
In 1818 General Andrew Jackson, who would eventually use his wartime experiences to run and win the presidency, invaded Florida for his second time. The Wiki picks up the story:
Because Spanish Florida was a refuge for blacks escaping slavery, who allied with the Seminole Indians, Jackson invaded the territory in 1816 to destroy the Negro Fort. He led a second invasion in 1818, as part of the First Seminole War, resulting in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819 and the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States. Jackson briefly served as Florida’s first Territorial Governor in 1821.
In 1830, Jackson [as president] signed the Indian Removal Act, which relocated most members of the Native American tribes in the South to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The relocation process resulted in widespread death and sickness amongst the Indians forced to walk from their ancestral lands to western reservations. The extent to which Jackson can personally be held responsible is debated by historians, but the removal is generally regarded as a violation of human rights. This, along with his relative support for slavery, has significantly damaged Jackson’s reputation.
An understatement, if I ever read one.
The ‘Merkin government continued to remove natives from Florida, leading to the 2nd and 3rd Seminole Wars, as the Wiki informs us:
Taken together, the Seminole Wars were the longest and most expensive (both in human and monetary terms) Indian Wars in United States history.
And, if I may add, a permanent stain on the history of ‘Merka.
Florida officially became a state on March 3, 1845. FloriDUH officially became a laughing stock almost every day since. Just ask Florida Man.
TO BE FAIR: Florida has one of my favourite places. Have a musical montage on me.